As election ballots hit homes, mailboxes, drop boxes and polling locations, it seems like there are many important decisions to be made about the future of our state and country.
One section of the ballot that asks “for or against” is the proposed Utah Constitutional Amendments section. While the 2020 amendments have received less attention than amendments of previous years, they still are important decisions to understand.
BYU political science professor Adam Brown explains three reasons lawmakers pass amendments: First, to change something in the constitution; second, to lock something into the constitution that has a lot of support now but might not have the same support in the future; and third, to make a symbolic change that will be pleasing to certain groups of voters.
Utah’s 2020 ballot measures range from hunting and education taxes to language and water. Brown believes six of the seven amendments on this year’s ballot fall into the first category.
Amendment A asks: Should Utah use gender-neutral language in 6 sections of the state constitution to make them consistent with the other 231 sections?
This amendment would replace the gender-specific language in the Utah constitution with gender-neutral terms. For example, this would change the instances of “husband” to “spouse” and “men” to “citizen.” Those supporting this amendment believe that these changes will protect all residents of Utah and better reflect the values of the state.
Amendment C asks: Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to make the following changes to the Utah Constitution’s ban on slavery and involuntary servitude:
- remove the language that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime; and
- clarify that the ban does not affect the otherwise lawful administration of the criminal justice system?
The Utah Constitution currently bans slavery except in language related to our prison system. This change would remove the allowance of slavery or servitude as a means of punishment for crime. The related resolution had bipartisan support in the legislature and was passed without opposition. There are many groups who support this amendment, including from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the NAACP.
Amendment G asks: Should the constitutional earmark for education funding from income tax and other revenue sources be shared to also support children and people with a disability?
This amendment would expand the uses of the income taxes and intangible property taxes currently allocated for education to include support for children and others with disabilities. This amendment has vocal opposition. Those against it worry that the money for education is already limited and dividing it further to include this group of people may negatively impact schools and learning.
The remaining four amendments deal with:
- Amendment B: Clarifying legislator qualifications
- Amendment D: Revising provisions surrounding municipal water supply rights
- Amendment E: Establishing a constitutional right to hunt and fish
- Amendment F: Changing the logistics of the legislative session
You can learn more about all of the amendments on the 2020 ballot as well as other election questions at vote.utah.gov to make sure your vote is informed and counted.